Back in the golden era of rock and roll music, young people had one
thing to look forward to every week on the burgeoning black and white
The Ozzie And Harriet Show. The reason for
their expectation was simple. Each week at the finish of the show
The Nelson's son Ricky would perform a song, outdoing
Elvis Presley and any other rocker of the time. Ricky's voice
was clear and strong, and his songs expressed the sentiments of being
a teenager at the time so well that he was immediately a hit. Of course,
having a young James Burton on guitar didn't hurt, either.
Over the next few decades, Nelson continued his songwriting and singing
career, giving the world some amazing songs.
On Easy To Be Free, a host of indie artists pay tribute to
these amazing songs, and in turn, to the great man who wrote the songs.
The Voyces rendition of "Poor Little Fool" preserves
the original spirit of the song, having an innocent purity to the
performance that recalls a simpler time in rock music. Linda Draper
gives a slow and melancholy performance on "How Long", showcasing
her delicately beautiful voice and bringing note to the dark complexity
of what could be mistaken as a simple Nelson composition. Nic Dalton
& The Gloomchasers give a slightly psychedelic spin to the
classic "Alone", while 1888 gives the classic "Travelin'
Man" a neo-fifties treatment. It's real cool. Rockers Dolorean
give a lo-fi slowcore performance of the amazingly deep "Are
You Really Real" and John Beland does a fantastic job
reviving the innocent wonder of "Young Love".
The highlight of this collection for me is John McEuen (of
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fame) doing an absolutely blistering
version of the rockabilly classic "Believe What You Say",
speeding things up a bit and working in some nice bluegrass touches
to create an awesome grass-a-billy version of one of my favorite Nelson
songs. The song just absolutely rocks, maintaining the original feel
of the tune while incorporating some nice banjo rolls and adding just
a bit more hop to the rhythm. Jeff Larson gives a very early
Byrds-like reading of the cool "Legacy", which leads
into a slow-down version of "Don't Leave Me This Way" performed
by the indomitable Marshall Crenshaw. Liz Durrett slows
"Try (Try To Fall In Love)" way down and makes it almost
an ambient track and Aaron Booth gives the super slow treatment
to the famously rocking ""Hello Mary Lou", stripping
it of all its rock glory and turning it to a beautifully haunting
slo-fi Red House Painters' style track; beautifully done and
lending an air to the song that I didn't know it could contain
I guess James Burton guitar solos don't have to always be the best
part of Ricky Nelson's songs.
And so the songs of the man who Bob Dylan proclaimed "His
voice was sort of mysterious and made you fall into a certain mood"
are brought to a new generation of rockers. Hopefully the next generation
can take away some of the intrinsic values that Ricky Nelson's songs
contain, bringing new life to rock and roll. And a really great thing
about this collection, besides some great music, is that a portion
of the proceeds from the sale of each CD goes to support CancerCare
an organization doing great things to support those who suffer from
1. The Primary 5 "One x One"
2. The Voyces "Poor Little Fool"
3. Jeff Mellin "Garden Party"
4. Oed Ronne "Take A Broken Heart"
5. Linda Draper "How Long"
6. Nic Dalton & The Gloomchasers "Alone"
7. Jeffrey Foskett "Young Emotions"
8. Astropop 3 "Life"
9. Denny Sarokin "One Night Stand"
10. 1888 "Travelin' Man"
11. Dolorean "Are You Really Real?"
12. Michael Barrett "Nightime Lady"
13. John Beland "Young World"
14. John McEuen with Jim Ratts and Runaway Express "Believe
What You Say"
15. Jeff Larson "Legacy"
16. Marshall Crenshaw "Don't Leave Me This Way"
17. Liz Durrett "Try (Try To Fall In Love)"
18. Allen Clapp "Lonesome Town"
19. The Autumn Leaves "Easy To Be Free"
20. Aaron Booth "Hello Mary Lou"
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